The best way to eliminate discrimination is through knowledge – after all, nearly all persecution stems from ignorance. If your child asks why a child at their school doesn’t eat pork, or doesn’t celebrate birthdays, it’s a useful opener to find out more about different religious customs and practises.
You can research online and in the library, but one of the most interesting ways of gaining information about religious customs is to talk to people. Here are some ideas to get you started on a voyage of discovery:
Depending on where you live, your child is likely to have seen some kind of religious dress, be it a dog collar, a burkha, or a Sikh’s turban. The way people dress and why can help highlight the belief systems of different religions.
2. Places of worship
Find out if you can visit a local place of worship to find out more about the building and its contents. Synagogues, mosques and churches, for instance, contain images and items sacred to the religion, and a helpful religious leader may be willing to explain more about their relevance.
Specific foods are forbidden in some religions, while others use fasting to aid adherents’ spiritual growth. One aspect of religious festivals is the food that is part of the celebrations. Find out more about foods and their role in religion through research on the internet, at the library and through talking to people about their religions.
One of the most interesting things about religions is their common ground. The aim of World Religion Day is to celebrate all religions, and one way to do that is to explore ways in which they are similar. Reading some of the religious stories reveals much crossover, especially surrounding religious figures like Buddha and Jesus. Many religious stories are wonderful in themselves and are a great introduction to different religions for kids.
Most religions have festivals throughout the year to mark important events on their calendars. Probably the ones most familiar to us in the UK are the Christian festivals of Christmas and Easter, but we have such a delightful range of religions now that it’s easy to discover more about festivals simply by visiting different places of worship or even local restaurants serving international cuisine. Festivals are also a great addition to family traditions, and can expand and enhance special time spent as a family, even if you’re not religious.